While Maryland is considered an at-will employment state, meaning that employees and employers can hire, work, fire, or quit at will, for highly skilled positions an employer will sometimes offer an employment contract to dictate the terms of the work. An experienced employment law attorney can help ensure that an employment contract is comprehensive and fair for the employee, protecting their rights and ensuring that the terms are in their client’s best interest. At HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP in Baltimore, our dedicated legal team is prepared to represent your interests in an employment contract negotiation. To learn more, call or contact our office today.
What is an Employment Contract?
An employment contract sets the terms of a worker’s employment with their employer. An employment contract elucidates the benefits of working for the employer as well as the obligations and risks that an employee takes by agreeing to the position. Employment contracts are more common in Maryland for higher skilled positions, such as corporate executives, sales teams, scientific positions, and other STEM-related fields. It is important to know that an initial employment contract is the starting point of a negotiation that can benefit the employee if handled properly by an experienced employment law attorney.
Common Elements in an Employment Contract
There are some common elements that are included in almost every employment contract, including compensation, benefits, job title, and job duties for the employer. A company will also often attempt to include restrictive covenants, or clauses within the employment contract that limit what an employee can do, especially after the working relationship ends. Some of the most common restrictive elements of an employment contract include the following:
A non-compete clause, otherwise known as a non-compete agreement, is a restrictive covenant often included in employment contracts. The purpose is to prevent an employee from leaving their employ to work for a direct competitor in their industry or from working for a direct competitor independently while also working for the current employer. A non-compete clause often has restrictions on the duration and geographic scope of when and where an employee can work after leaving their current employer, but Maryland courts mandate that these terms be reasonable in order to be enforceable.
Non-compete clauses are often created purposefully broad in duration and geographic scope by an employer in order to limit an employee’s ability to work for a competitor as much as possible. However, if left unchallenged it can result in employees being unable to find work when their employment with the current employer ends. An experienced employment lawyer can ensure that a non-compete clause still allows for an employee to find future work in their area of expertise.
A severance agreement may feel counterintuitive when negotiating an employment contract, but this is often the best time to determine the terms of an employee’s separation from the company. A severance agreement often includes final compensation, benefits, and protection necessary to secure the next position in a person’s professional career. Including this negotiation with the terms of an employment contract provides both the employee and employer with an understanding of how the working relationship will begin, progress, and end between parties which can minimize conflict later on.
Confidentiality clauses are another common restrictive covenant in employment contracts and are used to protect the intellectual property of an employer. This can include trade secrets like customer lists, sales plans, product formulas, manufacturing details in addition to any intellectual property designed, developed, improved, or implemented by the employee during their time with the employer. A confidentiality clause often includes terms including:
- The scope of confidential information
- Any exclusions of confidentiality
- The obligations of the employee who knows confidential information
- Applicable state laws
- How to resolve a confidentiality dispute, and
- Whether the prevailing party receives attorneys’ fees
An experienced employment law attorney can ensure that the terms included in a confidentiality agreement are not unduly broad and are fair for the employee. These are only a few of the ways in which an attorney can help with an employment contract in Maryland.
How an Attorney Can Help
An employment law attorney can be incredibly beneficial to an employment contract negotiation. One of the first services that a lawyer provides for employment contracts is a review and explanation of all the terms included in the initial document. Employers have experience and skill in drafting employment contracts that benefit them the most, so it is important to understand all the terms, obligations, and risks involved in signing the agreement. Employment contracts are often rife with legal jargon and complex terms that sometimes are not even enforceable or valid if challenged.
A Maryland employment law attorney can also help an employee negotiate the terms of their employment contract. A lawyer can renegotiate any term in an employment contract, from salary and vacation days to the scope of a non-compete or confidentiality clause. It is critical that restrictive covenants are reviewed and negotiated by someone in your corner, as employers will attempt to put as many restrictions on an employee as possible in order to protect their own interests.
Finally, if there is an existing employment contract already in place, an employment law attorney can zealously advocate for employees if the terms of that contract are breached by the employer. An employment contract is just like any other agreement between parties, meaning that the terms can be enforced in court. If you were promised benefits in an employment contract that are not fulfilled, an employment lawyer can litigate your case in court or through third-party arbitration. To learn more about the wide range of legal services offered to our clients needing assistance with employment contracts, talk to our office today.
Call or Contact Our Office Now
Do you have questions about an offered employment contract or need help with the terms of an existing agreement in the Baltimore area? If so, the knowledgeable and experienced employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP are here to help. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a consultation of your case now.